Belfast Telegraph

God Bless The Child: Wit and wisdom of overgrown schoolboys

Lyric Theatre, Belfast

By Grania McFadden

The joy of a good story well-told is a pleasure often underestimated. And few tell as good a story as Frank O'Connor.

Three of his best - My Oedipus Complex, The Genius and First Confession - are given a new lease of life in this engaging production, which harks back to a time when God was feared and mammies were fearless.

Shane Casey, Gary Murphy and Ciaran Bermingham are overgrown schoolboys, with shirt-tails hanging out and blazers straining, in a classroom decked with holy statues and a cross with a backdrop of laundry-laden clothes lines.

Casey is Michael, who declares battle against his father, back from fighting in the Great War. "War was the most peaceful period of my life," he declares, recounting his outrage as daddy takes his place in mammy's attention, affection and bed.

Gary Murphy is the bespectacled Larry, the "poor, sad, lonesome thing" that is a child genius, who creates operas and embarks on voyages while others in the infants class struggle to spell C A T.

Ciaran Bermingham is red-faced, round-bellied Jackie, living in fear of his first communion, in which he must deny his hatred of Nana.

Each character provides a portion of his tale before handing over to his classmates. The actors occasionally appear as other characters in each other's stories, and the stories are broken up through the repetition of school prayers. There's nothing else to distract our attention from the wit and wisdom of a great writer. Simple pleasures are often underestimated.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph

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